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1,000 Britons Die Every Week from Diseases Linked to Air Pollution, Report

Almost 1,000 people in Britain die prematurely every week from diseases related to air pollution, a government report revealed Wednesday.

Air Pollution.

In their report on air quality, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, made up of members of parliament (MPs), press for new "clean air zones" in dozens of English towns and cities.

The zones are needed, the politicians said, to cut the risk of cardiac, respiratory and other diseases caused by polluted air, linked to 50,000 premature deaths a year.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has drawn up plans for new clean air zones for five of the most polluted cities in Britain. But the MPs said more is needed to cut the health and environmental impacts of pollutants, including particulates and nitrogen dioxide.

MP Neil Parish, chair of the committee, said Wednesday: "Only five cities (Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton) will have new powers to charge polluting vehicles to enter new clean air zones.

Councils in the dozens of other English cities currently exceeding EU pollution limits must also be given the option of using such powers if their communities support action."

Communities need to be given legal powers to set controls that meet their specific circumstances, such as charging polluting vehicles in certain zones, at certain times of day, or to target specific bus routes, he said.

The committee called on the government to devolve greater flexibility to all councils to tackle vehicle pollution in and out of clean air zones.

The committee also said diesel vehicles produce more nitrogen oxides than petrol and alternatively-fuelled vehicles, and they have urged the government to consider introducing a diesel scrap page scheme for older vehicles.

Parish added: "Government funding for new refuelling infrastructure and grants to help buy cleaner vehicles such as electric or hybrid cars is welcome. But more action is needed if we are to get older, more polluting diesel vehicles off the road quickly.

People need more of an incentive to purchase the more expensive low-emission vehicles."

The committee also called for the spread of more modern farming practices aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants.

Farmers, said Parish, could help clean up the environment and improve health by using the latest methods for managing manure and fertilizer and for feeding their livestock.

By Robert Muriisa.

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